Almost from the moment the 49ers drafted wide receiver Quinton Patton in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the team has liked the former Louisiana Tech star.
He flew out early to the Bay Area on his own dime – before he was required – impressing Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach at the time.
“The fact that he would buy his own ticket and fly out here, to me, just speaks volumes about him," said Harbaugh. "I mean, to be honest with you, he reminds me of me. That’s something I would have done.”
But in his two seasons with the 49ers, Patton has yet to make a big impact.
He’s had his moments – such as a big catch near the end of the team’s final regular-season game in 2013 that set up a victory – but they have been isolated. Over two seasons he has just six catches for 78 yards and no scores.
Patton isn't a speedburner or a huge, physical target (at 6 feet and 204 pounds). But he has good hands, runs precise routes and has a knack for being able to come up with the ball. Coaches also have liked his work ethic.
Now, as he gets plenty of work in the 49ers’ ongoing organized team activities (OTAs) with the other receivers, he sees an opportunity to earn more playing time in 2015. Veterans Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are projected to be the team’s starters, but Patton is a candidate for the third receiver, along with Bruce Ellington, Jerome Simpson, Chuck Jacobs and several undrafted rookies.
He went to work early, going to Arizona for several weeks to practice with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to establish better chemistry. Now he’s hoping to make an impression through OTAs, minicamp and summer training camp and exhibitions to be a big part of the Niners new offense under coordinator Geep Chryst in 2015.
According to several reports, Patton already has had some impressive plays in offseason practices. Patton, too, watches film from those workouts and sees a different and better player than the one he was in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s a totally different person (on film),” he told the media. “It’s a more confident person and the growth that you can see through Year 1, 2 and upcoming 3. I’m smarter and work harder than I did before.”
Patton knows he has a golden opportunity under a new head coach and staff to make a statement and he’s determined to make the most of it.
“I’m not going to say it’s my time, but I’m coming,” Patton said. “Playtime is over with.”